Elyse Griffin, a co-founder of CASE, wants strict regulatory
oversight of Lafarge.
the Lead Out (and the Ammonia, and the Mercury . . .)
group wants the Lafarge cement plant in Ravena to become a
less toxic neighbor
fear that the last 47 years has been one dangerous science
experiment performed on the residents of your town, and your
kids,” Elyse Griffin told the town board of Coeymans Monday
night. She is one of the co-founders of Community Advocates
for Safe Emissions, a group of citizens from the communities
that surround the Lafarge cement plant in Ravena. CASE formed
last year, Griffin said, over concern that the emissions from
the plant have had dire effects on the people and children
in their communities.
do not know the full range of toxins coming out of the smokestack,”
Griffin said, “but what we do know is pretty alarming.”
She ran down a list of known toxins that she claimed the Lafarge
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, she said,
Lafarge produced 22 tons of lead in 2006 alone, which it landfilled
on site, she said, across the street from two schools. Nearly
1,200 children go to those schools everyday. “We all know
that lead is a potent neurotoxin related to kidney damage,
also emitted 65 tons of ammonia, which is a respiratory irritant,”
she said. “Hydrochloric acid, an eye, skin, and mucous irritant.
And just under one gram of dioxins.” Dioxins are particularly
nasty; even trace amounts can cause skeletal deformities,
kidney defects, and weakened immune responses.
In 2007, the EPA ranked Lafarge the fourth worst mercury polluter
in the United States, pumping an average of 380 to 400 pounds
of mercury a year out of its smokestack from 2003 to 2006.
is a very potent neurotoxin that causes neurological and developmental
delays, especially in children and developing fetuses,” Griffin
said. Lafarge issued a statement last year claiming that 98.7
percent “of its mercury emissions are in the form of elemental
mercury.” Elemental mercury, according to the World Health
Organization, is absorbed into the body through inhalation.
Elemental mercury can travel throughout the body, Griffin
said, and will even penetrate into the brain or into the womb.
The list went on.
all of this dumped on our community, one year at a time, for
47 consecutive years. To our knowledge, the New York state
Department of Environmental Conservation has never taken a
single soil sample to determine the cumulative environmental
and health impact of these emissions . . . nor studied the
individual health impact from long-term chronic exposure to
Griffin said that although there is no conclusive evidence
of the effects of these toxins on the people who live in the
long shadow of Lafarge’s smoke-stack plume, there have been
determinative studies performed in other states, which provide
evidence that exposure to these toxins can be devastating.
She pointed to a study performed by the University of Texas
San Antonio, which concluded that in cases of exposure to
1,000 pounds of mercury there is a 43-percent increase in
special education rates, and a 61-percent increase in the
rate of autism.
Griffin, a young mother, said that she believes that she has
seen the effects of heavy-metal pollution on her own 4-year-old
son, who currently is being treated for mercury toxicity and
struggling against the debilitating behavioral effects that
this has caused in him.
CASE cofounder Elyse Kunz addressed the board: “We want to
be absolutely clear that we don’t want to see Lafarge go out
of business. . . . But we want to make sure as we go forward,
we are doing it in the safest way possible.”
In March, the EPA will release new guidelines regarding mercury
emissions from cement kilns. Lafarge is in the planning process
for a new, state-of-the-art kiln and smokestack that spokesman
John Reagan said should be online by 2014.
Kunz said that now is the time to demand maximum regulatory
oversight of the plant.
will be living with the next smokestack for the next 50 years,”
Kunz said. “So this is an important moment to do the safest
thing possible going forward.”
CASE urged the board and Coeymans Supervisor Ronald Hotaling
to voice their concerns to the state Department of Environmental
Conservation and the EPA.
Hotaling said that was a reasonable request for the board,
and one they could accommodate.
CASE urges any residents who suspect that their health impairments
might be connected to the emissions from Lafarge to contact
the organization. You can find CASE online at case-ny.org.
loose ends this week-